Monday, July 4, 2011

101 Things: #57 - Visit two new Russian cities

So as you can see I've been bad about posting what I've done, but one of the cooler things I've accomplished from this list is to see two new Russian cities: Volgograd and Astrakhan...let's begin

I was in Volgograd for Easter and it was a pretty crazy experience. I didn't realize it was Easter weekend when I left, but I'm glad I went that weekend since Kalmykia is mainly Buddhist and doesn't celebrate Easter, I was able to see more of how the Russians do things (including a midnight Easter service).

I stayed with my ETA friend Jess and we had a pretty cool time.  It was nice to be able to see a bigger city after being in Elista and it was nice to see the water.  I'm also really glad I was able to see Volgograd since it's such an important Russian city (if you don't know why, google it because you should). It was very cool to see Мать Родина as well as the WWII museum.  I had a great time hanging with Jess and was able to meet some of her friends too!

The midnight service was probably the coolest though. Russian Orthodox churches hold services at midnight on Easter and they last for four hours. And if that's not enough, everyone (including the babushki) have to stand the entire time.  There's lots of singing and chanting and it's really pretty fascinating! We stayed for a little over an hour before deciding to bail and get some rest, but it was a really cool experience!  Here are some pics!

It's apparently bigger than the Statue of Liberty and the Russians are proud of that...but we have better roads!

Now on to Astrakhan.  I went to Astrakhan in May by myself and it was a crazy pretty city and extremely old! If you don't know much about Astrakhan I again suggest googling it like I did before I went. It's an old city and was split up into two parts: the Russian Kremlin where the Russians lived and the Tartar camps where the Tartars lived.  The Kremlin is exceptionally beautiful and the churches and museums are amazing.  The city is also located on the Volga river and so the sunsets were absolutely gorgeous!

Astrakhan was also very interesting because sitting where it sits, it's a mixture of Russian and Muslim and I saw Russian and Azerbaijani flags flying together along the streets. It was a sight to see in Russia.  The city was also very poor though, very different from Moscow or even Elista. Some of the homes where people lived in the Muslim section of the city where just tiny shacks and it was pretty sad to see.

I also took a nice boat tour on the Volga and had some nice dark beer and dried fish, even if it was a bit overpriced.  All in all it was a great time! I even managed to navigate the marshrutkas by myself! I was so proud!  Check out the pics!

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